In the days leading up to the proposal, I work with my clients to pick the spot of the proposal, even if they have a pretty firm idea of where they want it to happen. Input from the photographer is always welcomed. I typically use a variety of tools to assist in agreeing on a spot for the surprise proposal and to guide my clients to that spot:
- annotated Google map
- existing photos of the area
- drone videos of the location found on YouTube
- the clients own photographs
Many times my clients are from out-of-state and have never been to the selected location and so it is very important that we plan out both the location and access to the location. These photos and screen captures are from a typical shoot in which I will annotate a Google map to get the client to the location; and because I always arrive early, I take a photo of the spot for the proposal and text it to the client. These tools give the client confidence in the plan, one less thing to worry about on a very stressful day.
If I am fortunate, we can meet up in the hour before the proposal to go over the process and agree on a place for the knee to be dropped. I consider the direction of sunlight/shadow and wind and, if possible, an isolated background without people walking into view.
In my experience, with a perfect plan with an ideal location, 50% of my proposals do not go to plan. Why? Because the partner proposing is very nervous, and their primary focus is proposing and not what the photographer would like them to do. So, I am always prepared not to go as we discussed and ‘agreed to.’ For many of my proposal shoots, I write backstories in my blog that capture surprise proposals’ reality, check them out. Corey’s proposal to Jessica had a few twists.
I had one client who sent me a map with an ‘X’ marks the spot, and we discussed it on the phone earlier in the day, and we were both set up for a perfect proposal. While I was at the pre-arranged spot, I watched the couple walk up the beach (as planned) and turn to walk toward my location. It was going as planned, but then they stopped, and I could see by his body language that he would drop to his knee. They were 150 yards away from my location. I dropped my backpack and ran at full speed down the sandy beach and captured the proposal but not as close as I would have liked. Not as planned. However, not only did he propose at the wrong spot he also had no spatial awareness and did not see the gentleman behind them. You probably do not want a random stranger in your proposal shot! If this does happen, and it happens. We will have a do-over to create a beautiful image, without the stranger!